FAYETTEVILLE – Starting Saturday’s third and final day of the NCAA Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships back in the pack with just 10 team points amassed Thursday and Friday from the 8-points second-place distance medley relay team and two also All-American eighth places from pole vaulter Bailee McCorkle and pentathlete G’Auna Edwards, Coach Lance Harter’s Arkansas Razorbacks overtook runaway Texas A&M at Arkansas’ Randal Tyson Indoor Track to win their second consecutive national indoor championship and fourth consecutive national championship.
With no 2020 NCAA Indoor and NCAA Outdoor Championships because of covid concerns and the 2020 NCAA Cross Country Championship postponed from November until Monday in Stillwater, Okla. the Razorbacks reign with 2019 and 2021 NCAA Indoor titles and the 2019 Outdoor and 2019 Cross Country crowns while also sweeping SEC Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor triple crowns and winning SEC Cross Country in 2020 and SEC Indoor last month.
The NCAA Indoor was achieved, 68-57 over the Aggies though that wasn’t how it appeared to Harter at Saturday’s outset.
“At the start of the (Saturday) meet they had a healthy lead and their triple jumper (for eight second-place points) jumped the best jump of her life in Saturday’s first event,” Harter said post meet Saturday night. “We’re thinking ‘Oh, no! But we just kept pecking away.”
It started with Arkansas milers Krissy Gear, the anchor on Thursday’s distance medley, and Kennedy Thomson.
“I told our milers which was our first event of the day, ‘Ladies the day can be dictated by the results of the first event. So be aware we’re got to have a positive finish,” Harter said. “We ended up second and third (totaling 14 points with Gear running 4:32 and Thomson, 4:33) in a great field. And we started rolling from there.”
Though with no first-places which A&M achieved with 10 points firsts from superstar pentathlete/jumper Gittens, two firsts and a third for 26 point and its 4×400 relay, the Razorbacks piled up points with Daszay Freeman, 7.99, second in the 60-meter hurdles; Shafiqua Maloney third in the 800 (2:01.22) sprinters Jada Baylar, seventh in the 60-meter dash; 7.23; Tiana Wilson sixth in the 400-meter dash 52.02 with Rosey Effiong, seventh; 52.50.
Even knowing A&M likely would get 10 in the meet closing 4×400, Razorbacks Lauren Gregory, Katie Izzo (Izzo bounced back from a Friday disappointing 5,000-meters) and Abby Gray clinched the team title running second, fourth and fifth in Saturdays 5,000 then Arkansas’ 4 x400 amassing six third-place points for a topper.
“A&M has a great team capable of scoring in the 60s,” Harter said. “But our kids rallied around each other.”
Injuries to SEC runner-up heptathlete Markus Ballengee and and distance ace Amon Kemboi spent out of the money trying to keep pace with Iowa State winner Wesley Kiptoo’s blistering
4:06 first mile of the 5,000 meters derailed the hopes of Arkansas Men’s Coach Chris Bucknam third-ranked Razorbacks men’s team’s hopes for a top four podium team finish. But while nowhere near No. 1 ranked meet winner Oregon’s 79 points, the Razorbacks did record a top 10 tied for seventh with Alabama 22-point finish started by the distance medley relay Friday placing sixth
On Saturday Kemboi came back with an All-American fourth-place, 7:50, in the 3,000, 60-meter hurdlers Phillip LeMonious, 7.54; and Tre’Bien Gilbert, 7.79, placed fourth and seventh and senior Kieran Taylor, seventh in the 800 meters; joined his father, John McDonnell era distance running great Gary Taylor, as Arkansas’ first father-son All-Americans McDonnell era sprinters Wallace Spearmon Sr. and Razorbacks Hall of Honor enshrined Wallace Spearmon Jr.
“Considering what the kids went through with injuries this week they fought hard,” Bucknam, whose Hogs won their second consecutive SEC Indoor last month, said. “It was good to be back in the top seven. Our goal is to get back on the top of the podium (2013 NCAA Indoor champions) and this is a step in that direction.”
Harter, holding out All-American Lauren Gregory because of her history of injuries and the outdoor season starting soon, and Bucknam with four running who ran indoors this weekend, will field cross country teams Monday though not at full strength compared to teams that skipped the NCAA Indoor meet for cross country in Stillwater.